Saturday, 28 March 2015

So what’ll it be? Fountain Pen or Laptop? by Michele Morrison

Scattered round my laptop are tell-tale signs of my age. A foolscap notebook is at my right hand, beautiful Swiss pen at the ready. Three Christmas cards from last year sit on my left, sent by friends who aren’t on email. I’ll write a note to each one, telling them we prayed for them during this last week when we pulled their cards out of the basket.

On the other side of the laptop screen, more foolscap and reporter’s notebooks spill round, revealing the painstaking efforts of my husband Don and me as we struggle to learn Russian.

Next to them is a diary for registering the names of guests who book in to our B&B. Google Calendar? No thanks.

I’ve just read an article about the decline in teaching handwriting. Some schools in the USA, it said, have given up on teaching this beautiful art form. Pupils are on Ipads. The next generation may not be able to put pen to paper.

Certainly I’ve noticed recently that as I grab an old envelope to scribble down a recipe or address, others take a picture of it from their phone, which is synched with a computer. Effortless.

The days of handwriting may be numbered.

At the risk of sounding like an old dinosaur, I would grieve this loss. When Don and I met, he was living in Scotland and I lived in California. After a couple of days spent in his family home, we had fallen in love but our love grew and was grounded as we separated to opposite sides of the world and wrote at least one letter a day. (No Skype in those days, and phone calls were expensive.) I remember the thrill every time I saw Don’s beautiful cursive script in fountain pen on the envelope, and the tenderness in the opening, ‘My darling Michele’ ... it just isn’t the same in Times Roman.

The article noted that a different part of the brain is engaged when using handwriting as opposed to typing. In taking notes during a lecture, for instance, facts need to be sifted as to their importance because there isn’t time to cursively write everything down, whereas an adept typist can record many more facts without really thinking about them.

Times change of course, and many changes are for the better. But not all of them.

Although I write on a laptop, there comes a point in every article, Bible reading note, or chapter where I simply have to print it out and pull out my pen. I then spend time editing the hard copy. Meeting it in a different format stimulates creative critique and changes. Then it’s back to the computer for the final presentation.

God has written his love on our hearts. He didn’t use a laptop or fountain pen, but the indelible blood of our Saviour. We are his print-outs as we live it out for others to read.

About the Author

Michele is a freelance writer, contributing articles to Woman Alive and Bible reading notes to BRF’s Day by Day with God. She wrote a children’s book starring her four children, having time-travel adventures based from their own home and environs: The Comet’s Tale is available on Amazon. She’s written a Christian lifestyle book, Footprints of Faith, and a historical novel based on the Biblical character Onesimus, Chains of Love. A transplanted Californian living in the cold northeast of Scotland, she enjoys twice-yearly trips to southern California to thaw out (and visit her daughter and her 90-year-old mother). She and her husband Don run a small B&B and are loving having youngest son and wife and first grandchild living nearby, and the other two sons and wives back in Scotland – at least for now.


  1. When I write the homework up on the whiteboard, my pupils get their phones out to take a picture of the instructions. I have to stand out of the way so that they can do so. It's very disconcerting. I'd much rather they wrote it in their school planners, which are there for the purpose. But it's how they roll, and I guess I have to accept that. BRING BACK THE QUILL!

  2. I think I'm a bit of a hybrid, using laptop and phone for some things and paper and pen for others. But at heart, I'm definitely old school and prefer paper and pen. Three out of four of my doctors still have paper diaries :) Michele - I particularly loved your last paragraph. So true, so amazing, so inspirational. Thank you.

  3. I am writing more and more on my laptop, but I still write up my journal with a fountain pen. Oh, well, if you insist on truth it is a cartridge pen. It came out of a calligraphy set as fountain pens with italic nibs had become scarce. One thing I have noticed is that the surface of some greetings cards is no longer absorbent - assuming everyone uses ballpoint pen, I suppose. Like Mandy, I found your last paragraph really brought your post to its point.

  4. I prefer to scribble. My handwriting was declared 'bad' at school: all my kids have 'bad' handwriting. My typing is worse. I work on a laptop, which is sometimes tethered to a big screen and a keyboard. I hate it but I can correct and revise easily & read what I wrote! I had a 40-year lovely handwritten correspondence with a Uni friend which was wonderful until it mysteriously went all wrong. I miss the envelopes plopping onto the mat: she Facebooks now ... not the same! I do not have a fave pen but I get through a lot of those jelly-ink pens which are the only ones that my handwriting works with. Maybe that counts ...

  5. I write on my laptop but I much prefer to read printed-out stuff. After I've written something, I always print it out and edit with a pen or highlighter. I just don't get the same result trying to edit on screen. But handwriting? That's a different matter. I have lots of medics in my family and their handwriting is illegible. But I still prefer a real diary and I write in it. Tried a electronic one - what a pest! My phone/ipad/kindle always seemed to be on charge when I needed to look something up.

  6. I still love pen and paper - I take notes on the back of envelopes, always have a notebook in my bag (even though my phone has one!), I journal in a book and edit on paper. It just feels right!